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Angels' Jordan Walden named to All-Star roster

Rookie reliever replaces New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who opted out because of injury.

July 07, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Jordan Walden delivers a pitch against the Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis during a 6-5 victory for the Angels.
Jordan Walden delivers a pitch against the Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis… (Hannah Foslien / Getty Images )

Jordan Walden was going to spend the All-Star break next week at Big Bear Lake with fellow Angels reliever Bobby Cassevah.

Those plans changed drastically — for Walden and Cassevah — on Thursday, when Walden was selected to replace New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on the American League roster for Tuesday night's All-Star game in Phoenix.

"We were going to go fishing and boating, just get away from baseball for a little bit," said Walden, the rookie closer. "Bobby is going to go home [to Florida] now. I'm not complaining at all."

Walden is the sixth Angels rookie and first since Jason Dickson in 1997 to make the All-Star team.

The hard-throwing right-hander was 1-2 with a 2.95 earned-run average and 19 saves in 25 opportunities entering Thursday, but he still couldn't believe he was picked.

"I was very surprised," said Walden, who has 39 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings and has allowed only one home run. "My numbers aren't too good. I didn't expect to be an All-Star, but I'm excited.

"It feels good, especially doing it as a rookie. You dream about going to the All-Star game and playing in it. I'll be ready."

Rivera, regarded as the greatest closer in baseball history, opted out because of a triceps injury.

Because Rivera was elected by the players, his replacement was the next-highest-ranking reliever who did not make the team by the player ballot. Walden ranked fifth among relievers with 67 votes.

"Rivera is the greatest," said Walden, who will join Angels pitcher Jered Weaver and second baseman Howie Kendrick on the AL team. "Being in the same sentence with him is awesome."

Futility player

Chone Figgins' career in Seattle has taken another turn for the worse, and that's really saying something considering how far the former Angels leadoff hitter and super utility player has fallen.

Figgins was one of baseball's best leadoff men in 2009, hitting .298 with a .395 on-base percentage, 30 doubles, 54 runs batted in, 114 runs, 101 walks and making the All-Star team in his last year with the Angels.

After signing a four-year, $36-million deal with the Mariners, Figgins hit .259 with a .340 on-base percentage, 62 runs and 114 strikeouts last season and got into a fight with then-Manager Don Wakamatsu in the dugout during a game in late July.

This season has been a disaster. Figgins is batting .183 with a .231 on-base percentage, 11 doubles, 14 RBIs and 21 runs and has been booed mercilessly by fans in Safeco Field.

Figgins' playing time was reduced three weeks ago when Seattle called up second baseman Dustin Ackley, the organization's top prospect, and moved Adam Kennedy to third a few times a week.

And Thursday, Mariners Manager Eric Wedge said Kyle Seager, who was called up from triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday, would get the bulk of the playing time at third base.

"Chone did some special things for us here, but he's really struggled to bring that same focus and production to Seattle," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Not to say it won't happen, but I'm very surprised he hasn't played at a high level, because he still has the skills."

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